(NationalSecurity.news) In response to the development of high-speed missiles by Russia and China, the U.S. military is also developing hypersonic capabilities that will allow American missiles to penetrate up-and-coming air defenses, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Earlier this month Defense Secretary Ash Carter revealed that the Pentagon’s new high-technology weapons under development to deal with rising threats from great powers includes ultra-high speed missiles.
During a speech in California Carter said that part of a nearly $72 billion package earmarked for weapons research and development will include funding for “new hypersonic missiles that can fly over five times the speed of sound.”
Just days before, the WFB noted, Air Force Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, head of his service’s weapons research programs, also revealed that two technology prototypes of hypersonic strike weapons – a scramjet-powered cruise missile and a hypersonic glider – could be ready to deploy in four years.
“We’re looking for more singles, base hits, versus trying to go for a home run,” Masiello said in regards to the development of a hypersonic missile during a conference Feb. 26.
He said the Air Force’s efforts expand on several tests in recent years of a Boeing X-51 scramjet hypersonic missile. The X-51 had one successful flight out of three, reaching speeds of Mach 5, or more than 3,800 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, the Army has tested a hypersonic missile which is designed to glide to targets after launch on a booster rocket, but it blew up shortly after launch in 2014, the WFB reported. That design is part of the Pentagon’s “Prompt Global Strike” initiative that is set to receive $181 million in funding this fiscal year.
Masiello said past X-51 should not affect continued hypersonic missile development. “You have to build an environment that allows failure because if you don’t you’re not going to be pushing the boundaries of technology,” he said.
Carter’s comments were the first by a U.S. defense secretary acknowledging the development of hypersonic missiles.
Both Russia and China are also developing hypersonic vehicles that are designed, among other things, to defeat U.S. missile defenses. As the WFB noted further:
China’s DF-ZF hypersonic glider is a high priority arms program and China’s answer to defeating advanced air and missile defenses that are increasingly being deployed around the world.
Russia also is developing hypersonic missiles that are a high priority element of Moscow’s large-scale buildup of nuclear and conventional forces.
Russian media sources have reported that Moscow intends to deploy hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles on new warships under construction.
A report released in early March by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies urged the Pentagon to rapidly build hypersonic weapons.
“Hypersonics — flight at five times the speed of sound (3,600 mph and above) — promises to revolutionize military affairs in the same fashion that stealth did a generation ago, and the turbojet engine did a generation before,” the report says. “By fundamentally redefining the technical means of power projection, the US can circumvent challenges facing the present force.”
The new hypersonic missiles will be capable of being launched from air platforms, ground launchers, warships and submarines.
“Hypersonic weapons offer advantage in four broad areas for U.S. combat forces,” the report noted. “They can project striking power at range without falling victim to increasingly sophisticated defenses; they compress the shooter-to-target window, and open new engagement opportunities; they rise to the challenge of addressing numerous types of strikes; and they enhance future joint and combined operations.”
Being able to power project over distance is an important goal for the U.S., especially as China continues development of A2/AD – anti-access, area denial – weapons systems including submarines and precision-strike ballistic missiles.
“The U.S. cannot afford to lose this emerging competition. An opponent who could field modern hypersonic weapons could hold any attacking force at great risk, on land, at sea, and in the air. There are few effective defenses to this capability,” the report noted, regarding the emerging hypersonic threat from Russia and China.
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